Tribute to Cincinnati 'Icon' Steven R. Adams

The well-known criminal defense attorney stood out both in court and at Ironman triathlons

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By Beth Taylor on November 3, 2020


Steven R. Adams, a prominent Cincinnati criminal defense attorney, passed away on Nov. 1, 2020 at the age of 55, after being struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle early in the morning.

“Steve was the most passionate person to ever pick up a briefcase,” says Tad Brittingham, an attorney at The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams. “He put his heart, soul and countless hours into his cases. His clients never knew the full extent of how much Steve exerted himself on their behalf, but we did. 

“We have lost a great leader, mentor, friend and boss. Steve was generous with his time to younger lawyers and those willing to learn. He spoke dozens of times to rooms of a hundred or more wanting to learn at the feet of a master litigator. A huge void is left gaping in the legal community and our hearts.”

Adams graduated from Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 1990; he worked as an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor for eight years before opening his own firm in 2000.

 “Steve was a one-of-a kind person and lawyer,” says Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters. “He was passionate about everything he did and gave every case and client 110% of his effort and energy. The legal community in Hamilton County and surrounding areas will miss him. I know that I will.

“Steve was also a world class athlete and father. My sympathy goes out to his two sons and his entire family. Nothing can replace a loved one, but hopefully good memories of times together and the thoughts and prayers of others will bring the family some peace.”

Jennifer Blum was Adams’ paralegal for nine years and also a friend. “Steve was a hero,” she says. “The community lost an icon. He cared about his employees like family. He defended his clients like family. He treated everyone with the utmost respect. I am at a loss for words to describe what a tragic loss this is. We love you, Steve, and we will carry on your legacy.”

Adds James Douglas Rebok, who interned at Adams’ firm before moving to D.C., “Steven Adams was a great mentor, an incredible criminal defense attorney, and a true friend. I could not imagine a more encouraging and motivating mentor.”

Adams was a passionate cyclist who participated in four Ironman Triathlon World Championships, finishing top among the attorneys in three of them. A hip replacement in 2012 limited his running to the elliptical machine, but he continued to swim and bike.

“Steve Adams was an irreplaceable mentor, leader and friend,” says Alex Deardorff, an attorney at The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams. “My desire to make him proud each day made me a better attorney, and I am so lucky to have learned from him. I will do everything I can to work as hard as he did for his clients and this community.” 

Hamilton County Municipal Judge Heather Russell worked with Adams when they were both assistant prosecutors, and later as a judge for many of his cases.

“Even as a judge, seeing him come into the room, he was a formidable presence … just an intense fire,” she says. “When you saw Steve Adams coming, he was going to have his shoes polished, and he was prepared for battle. … But he had the best laugh in the world.

“Cincinnati is a big small city, and he’s part of this big courthouse family. We are all really hurting today. It’s a loss in our family.”

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